The new year has arrived and once again it's that time of the year for many to make new resolutions.
I'm not the kind of guy who makes resolutions every year but I do try to think about how I want to prioritize my resources--both time and money--and direct them at my goals for the year, so that I can focus on attaining those aims I've set out to achieve.
In the same vein, I'd like to pen down some issues that I believe the industry and the government should make a priority as we move into this new year.
2010, in particular, will be an acid test for the industry as a whole as it tries to consolidate after being hit by the global financial crisis last year. There are still mixed signs on the state of the recovery with some analysts being more bullish than others.
IDC predicts that infocomm technology (ICT) spending growth in Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan, will reach US$184 billion in 2010 with a 7.7 percent growth over this year. Fueling this growth, noted the research firm, will not necessarily be new technologies as much as there will be a more mature and robust implementation of technologies that have been available for a while already.
Which brings me to my first point… Often, the challenges faced by the tech industry in Malaysia are not because of the lack of ideas or new technology concepts per se. It's the lack of the will to implement or the inability to implement due to various reasons.
For instance, several states in Malaysia have been talking about launching state-wide Wi-Fi services for more than five years now, citing how these services--which cost next to nothing for the consumer--will help spur the competitiveness of the state.
But, yet, many of these projects have been left languishing without much progress, save for a few that have made progress somewhat. This is but one example.
Mature and robust implementation of ICT projects requires not only steely determination on the part of the government, as in the case of the aforementioned state-wide Wi-Fi projects, but proper planning, budgeting and most importantly, accountability.
It's pointless for the government and companies associated with such projects to trump up press releases saying they would do such-and-such a project but are not accountable for what they say when the project do not come to fruition.
That brings me to the second wish--accountability, or the lack thereof.
Last year, local daily The Star reported that according to the 2009 Auditor-General's report, a local college, Kolej Kemahiran Tinggi Mara Balik Pulau in the northern state of Penang, paid an incredulous 84,640 ringgit (US$25,115) for two Acer Aspire-5052ANWXMI laptops.
In addition, the college purchased 450 units of computer aided design workstations with network cards at 3.45million ringgit (US$1.02 million) for 12 labs, each equipped with 19-inch monitors costing 8,500 ringgit (US$2,522)
And last November, The Start reported that PCs in the Malaysian Parliament cost a whopping 11,916 ringgit (US$3,535) each, including the cost of installation, with additional 320 ringgit (US$395) paid for the keyboard, mouse and tilting bracket. In addition, the report said the computers were only equipped with an 80GB hard disk, which cost 363 ringgit (US$107).
What in the world would possess anyone to purchase such systems for the country in the name of ICT using taxpayers' money? And the great irony is that, ICT has always been bandied as a tool to help companies and people save cost and improve productivity, not the other way round.
Opposition parliamentarians questioned whether a proper tender was called for the purchase, and asked if the procurement was done through direct negotiations without proper comparison of prices.
Whatever the actual reasons may be, we won't know, but this travesty beyond words is in my opinion due to the fact that there is no accountability in the procurement process and indeed down to the mindset of bureaucrats and public officials.
Those in the corridors of power need to realize that spending on ICT is not simply another checklist of budget that needs to be ticked off. Accountability is an attitude that begins with the mind, which then flows down to actions.
Those who control the purse strings need to realize that whenever public (or for that matter private) funds are used, there have got to be tangible benefits that reach their intended audience and that if they don't, someone or some organization will have to answer for it. After all, it's not their father's money they're spending.
Last on the list is that this year will witness more substance than hype in the technology landscape in Malaysia. There are several long-awaited developments about to take place in Malaysia.
Top on the list is the launch of high-speed broadband, followed by the national rollout of high-definition TV via Astro, a local satellite service provider.
Undoubtedly, there will also be other technological developments but whatever these developments are, my wish is that they will come to enterprises and consumers without the fanfare but with practical reality, affordability and the products and services will turn out as advertised--minus the hype.
Far too often, hype precedes reality and while I understand this must be the case to a certain extent, I do hope we will see a more balanced approach to advertising and promotions and actual received products and services.
With that, here's wishing a good year ahead for all in the industry and I hope Malaysia would really make progress in its technological landscape.